Home » Marketing » What is content marketing and how can you make business with it?
Last edited: January 11, 2022
Table of content
Make social proof the foundation of marketing
Sign up free
Content Marketing, is a marketing tool that provides the target audience with useful or otherwise interesting content, and directs potential buyers directly or indirectly towards the purchase.
Content marketing has risen strongly to become a topic of discussion as Internet and digital marketing have become more common, but it is good to remember that content marketing has been done well before the Internet.
If you stop people on the street, most of them have heard of the Michelin star ranking, and know what it’s all about. But why do restaurants get Michelin stars? One of the most known and successful examples of content marketing is the Michelin guide for drivers, which dates back to the beginning of the 1900-century.
With first look restaurants may seem totally irrelevant subject for a car tire company, but Michelin had it all figured out a hundred years ago.
Michelin is one of the World’s biggest car tire manifacturers, whose target group of customers are people who own a car – and better yet, the owners that use their car the most and therefore wear out their car tires faster as well.
Sure a hundred years ago they were thinking about opportunities on how to reach out to more potential clients, and how to grow their customer base (how to get people to buy more cars). And related to that, what are the things that motivate people to buy a car in the first place, and when they do, what are the main issues car owners are facing.
When the first Michelin guide was published in France in the beginning of 1900-century, there were only 3000 cars in the whole country at the time. The whole industry revolving around cars was just getting started. The first guides included restaurants, maps, and directions for planning car trips.
In the 1920’s Michelin started to expand their restaurant listings, because the restaurant list was clearly the most popular section on the guide. Michelin also hired staff to visit the restaurants and to evaluate their experiences. A couple years later came in the use of Michelin stars for rating the restaurants, just as they still are to this date.
After a 100 years has passed, it’s easy to say that the content marketing strategy for the Michelin Guides has been quite successful.
Most of the history, the Michelin guide has not been free, and their ideal target audience has been willing to pay for it. Michelin has in a way created a whole new way of business through marketing, that at the same time creates a positive mindset towards the whole brand in general, and keeps them in the mind of the customer throughout their car trips.
Sure the best years of glory for the Michelin guides are far behind, but still in the year 2015 they published 14 guides in 23 different countries, and they were sold to more than 90 more countries. Michelin stars are still to this day, the standard for evaluating restaurants that everybody knows.
Even though Michelin has started content marketing early on, even more pioneering content marketing has been created by John Deere, with his magazine The Furrow. The Furrow was first published in 1895 and it is one of the oldest examples of content marketing, that is still alive today.
Just like Michelin, the Furrow was ahead of his time in many ways. It became very popular amongst the farmers. In a time where marketing was mainly focusing in showing your own products, The Furrow focused on the problems the farmers were facing.
On their best moments back in the year 1912, the Furrow could reach up to more than 4 million farmers. These days The Furrow reaches more than 570 000 potential customers from their target group.
Just like Michelin, John Deere’s The Furrow is spot on with their content marketing strategy: create content that interests your target audience. No one is interested in reading a text that is only focused on telling details of your company and of how perfect your services are.
And even if they were, customers are not that stupid to believe what the company representative says about their own products – at least not without some criticism.
Customers want to learn more about the subject without feeling like they are constantly being asked to buy something. That way, the customer arrives to the conclusion of needing to buy the product on their own, to solve whatever problem they are facing at the time.
That is what content marketing is all about.
First off, it’s good to realize that we are not living in the perfect World. Even though we have a lot of information on content marketing and about things that should, or should not be done, even our content marketing isn’t perfect. And more than likely, we are in a relatable position with a lot other companies on this. It’s not always smart to spend tens, or even hundreds of thousands on content marketing even if it would create sales – if it doesn’t create it cost-efficiently enough.
Also the time and focus put into content marketing is away from something else, therefore it is not self-evident that everybody needs to do it. The next few lines are going to picture our situation with content marketing right at this moment in March 2019.
In the upcoming months our content marketing is going to take some bigger leaps forward – since the creating of these blog texts is bringing our content marketing development towards the right direction.
Our content marketing is roughly based on four parts:
For getting the best possible results for our investment, right now our focus is more on the sections 2 and 4. By focusing on them, we are going to get the best possible outcome. We are distributing through social media and also collecting leads through there for a cheap price, but in the long run it would be ideal to also start collecting leads amongst persons who are looking for the type or services that our company provides. This is why writing the blog plays a big role when looking at the bigger picture.
As you can see from our content marketing, it varies quite a lot from the ones that Michelin and John Deere have used. Because we are a growing business without a cash flow of millions of dollars going through the company accounts, it is more profitable for us to focus on the channels that will provide us with countable results – and this is why we are focusing so much on the digital aspect. This doesn’t mean that the more traditional ways of marketing are any worse, only that their results are not as easily measured or predicted.
So what does content marketing cost exactly? You can divide the cost of content marketing in two different parts; producing the content, and sharing the content.
Producing the content has a bigger scale for pricing than sharing it. This means that while the content is still being produced, the process can take endless turns on the way, making the process last longer and therefore raising it’s price very high.
Where as with sharing of the content this problem doesn’t appear. Although by exploiting SEO you can get sort of free traffic to your site and shared different types of content with different prices. Many times the term CPM (Cost Per Thousand) -prices are mentioned related to the content sharing, this means the price for how much a thousand viewings will cost. As a meter the CPM is quite irrelevant because it doesn’t say anything about if the person actually used the content, or if the content was targeted at the right target group of people or not.
You should always use the final sale as the meter for content distributing, but of course leads for example are a good objective.
In general, you can normally get the CPM to be less than 10€. If your website is well planned, you can get clicks for the site for 0,10€-0,50€/each. Although as mentioned before, if the CPM is a 100€ and the clicks cost you 7€, it can still be effective content sharing in the case that those clicks turn into a profitable business.
The pricing for content production is in a way more straight forward, because the auctioning happening in the advertisement platforms doesn’t affect it. The price depends on how much time it takes to create and produce the content. So based on this for example a blog text can cost you 15€, or it can also cost you 200€. Same way with content sharing the, a blog that cost 50€ can be as good or bad as a blog that costs 200€.
Typically content producing doesn’t become so expensive because of using too much time on the actual manufacturing of the product, but because of all the steps related to the process, such as designing, strategy planning, and workshops, require lots of working hours. On the other hand, this creative part of the job is necessary for making any results.
Another common way to make content production very expensive, is by producing blog texts without thinking the whole process of buying, and how to convert the customer into a sale.
If your intention is to sell cars and you are writing a blog about how to use Tinder, you can’t expect to receive a lot of conversion, even if your website has a lot of traffic on it. The whole process of planning should start from defining the budget and of what kind of results you should get to make the content marketing profitable.
Let’s take an example where a company is selling a service that leaves 10% in hand before content marketing expenses, and the average sale value is 10 000€. From the leads available, 10% are closed deals. Thus, one deal brings an average of 1000€ and 10 relevant leads are needed to get that deal.
Roughly, cost of one relevant lead is 100€.
So, if you invest 20 000€ in content marketing, it should produce 200 leads. If you are only producing blogs with the conversion point being for the client to contact you and ask for an offer, with that 20 000€ you won’t reach the wanted 100 leads, not even after writing 500 blog texts.
Where as if you make a clear plan, that includes:
Plan/strategy – 1000€
One lead magnet (for example a guide, or a short online course) that is used for collecting the leads and that is very interesting for the target audience – 2000€
Thirty blogs with relevant search terms, that have good SEO – 7 000€
A reference video of satisfied customers – 3000€
Content distribution on Facebook – 6000€
Optimization of content distribution – 1000€
This way, reaching the goals of 200 relevant leads in one year is completely possible.
Now some of you might be thinking that there is no way you can get all of the above with the budget of only 20 000€, when a good quality strategy work can cost by itself 10 000€. Of course it is possible to spend 10 000€ only working on the strategy, but in most cases it is better to make a simple plan for 1000€ and use the rest of the 9000€ for testing the theory.
So if you would count those 1000€ take for example 10 working hours, you have plenty of time to sketch the buying process and what kind of conversion points there should be. You can also do a quick keyword research that reveals what keywords your target groups are using.
In that price, there is not too much communication, playing with ideas, teaching or reviewing included. So in case you want a reasonable plan with a thousand euros, you as the buyer, also need to be aware of what is going on.
What does a good content marketing strategy or plan include, and what is the difference?
Content marketing strategy usually focuses on a larger image than the plan itself. Usually, you have to deal with things such as who the content marketing is aimed at (buyer personalities), the cornerstones of content marketing for different target groups, how the content is being shared, how the publishing process goes, and how content marketing supports other business goals.
The content marketing plan often then focuses on more practical things. On what topics and when content is being produced, how to schedule content production, and what campaigns or specific contents are intended to convert the attention received into leads.
As we have seen, you can use as much time in strategy work you want to, but this may not appear in the results. Thinking about the bigger picture is easier than not thinking about the actual practical matters. If the plan defines who you want to reach, what they are interested in (i.e. of which topic the lead magnet will be made of) and what search terms they use, it is usually a good start.
It is generally worthwhile to create a big picture strategy through practice and not by planning with a small circle of consultants. Indeed, no sort of expert or content marketing consultant can predict the behavior of a potential customer. But if you write 10 different content on sensible topics, then probably one of them will give you direction on where your companies content marketing should be directed in the future.
From the point of view of companies, the situation is quite positive to the extent that the best players in Finland do content marketing at least reasonably, so the level is far from, for example, the United States.
I think the competitive situation is well illustrated, for example, by the marketing sector, where all the Finnish players together have produced less downloadable content / online courses for the lead generation than just one operator (HubSpot) in English. Of course, this argument comes to some extent, but if you now look at the HubSpot Marketing Resources section, for example, and there are a total of 431 different guides, e-books, online courses, and so on, personally I don’t have any examples of operatives who have done even 20 different contents that are available for downloading.
Of course, the comparison is a bit unfair considering the resources. But, for example, when you look at the quality of HubSpot’s free content, you get a picture of how much effort they have put into the lead generation.
In Finland the situation with most line of work is that if you are wondering what kind of problems customers have and quickly make some downloadable content that solves their problems, you get quick leads. As far as our own marketing experience goes, our opinion is that the situation in the USA is not exactly the same, instead you need to put more time and effort in the content and the layout.
Good examples of how content marketing is being implemented in Finland are for example, the Seasonal Calendar (Satokausikalenteri), Trainers House and Barona. Everyone can visit their own websites and social networks. Not much detective work is needed to understand what these people are doing right, and what to learn from it.
One good rule of thumb is to look at what others do and how others sell content marketing training, for example. For example, by tracking how different content marketing online courses are sold, you are actually learning much more than going through content marketing courses yourself.It is also good to note that a large number of the training materials are material produced by various content marketing agencies, often highlighting factors such as strategy work that has the best coverage for their business.
Almost without exception, you learn the best in practice Instead of using 2000 € for training, use that 1500 € for the time to learn how to do keyword research with Google and for content production. And use the last 500 € for content distribution. Then when you have some kind of grip on what content marketing could mean in your case, you will get a lot more out of your training.
Generic online courses or trainings may not be the best solution even after this. For example, a 2-hour sparring session with someone who has made good results in content marketing with another company may be more effective. To raise some online courses on the subject, there are some reasonable online courses found for example on HubSpot and digitalmarketer.com.
Before you become familiar with it at all, it is difficult for you to get the joy out of the courses, let alone understand what is really essential or challenging in content marketing in your case.
Content marketing is a marketing tool that has been used for a long time as part of a marketing toolkit. Well implemented, it is an effective part of marketing and thus also an effective way to increase your business sales.
Content marketing is not a shortcut for happiness, and in all cases it is not even worth investing in content marketing. Sometimes other things are higher on the priority list.
Here’s another checklist for creating your company’s content marketing, that will ensure that your content marketing really produces the wanted results.
If you’d like to get more added to your content marketing, and especially on how you can use your customer experience to bring your content marketing to a new level, check our our guide to using Testimonials for marketing!
Skyrocket your marketing by using reviews, testimonials and video testimonials.
Tell me more >>